China retains Yi as Central Bank governor in surprise move

China retained several of its top economic officials, including central bank Governor Yi Gang, in a surprise move as Beijing looks to boost investor confidence and steer the nation’s post-Covid recovery.
Yi, 65, will remain as the head of the People’s Bank of China, according to a list of names nominated to the National People’s Congress — the annual parliamentary gathering — on Sunday. Liu Kun was retained as finance minister, while Wang Wentao will also stay on as commerce minister.
He Lifeng, 68, a long-time Xi associate and former head of the nation’s economic planning agency, was named vice premier — a post widely expected to put him in charge of economic policy. Zheng Shanjie, previously the top official in Anhui province, was selected to replace He as head of the National Development and Reform Commission.
Yi was expected to step down, having reached the retirement age for ministers and after being left off a list of top ruling party officials last year. On Saturday, Yi was appointed a member of the standing committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a top political body, enabling him to remain in his post despite hitting the official retirement age.
“This is a pragmatic choice, as the new leaders need professional experts to handle the complicated economic and financial challenges,” said Zhang Zhiwei, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management Ltd. “The leaders understand the top priority is to boost confidence. This decision is one step in that direction.”
Growth Outlook
The surprise move to retain key economic officials comes against the backdrop of an uncertain growth outlook as China gradually recovers from three years of pandemic turmoil and an ongoing property market slump. While there are recent signs of a rapid pickup in consumer spending after the country dropped Covid restrictions at the end of 2022, global growth has weakened and exports continue to shrink.
Yi will be tasked with providing central bank support to steer the recovery while at the same time keeping inflation at bay, maintaining a stable yuan and preventing another buildup of debt in the economy. Stabilizing the property market — which the International Monetary Fund says is still in an unresolved crisis — will be another key challenge.
The PBOC under Yi has taken a moderate approach to monetary easing since the pandemic erupted in 2020, elevating the status of structural policy tools to help funnel credit into targeted sectors of the economy. During his first term, Yi has also pushed to reform the interest rate system and increase the flexibility of the yuan.
A US-trained economist and Beijing native, Yi is seen as a liberal technocrat with strong academic credentials. He was one of the first Chinese students sent to America after the two countries established diplomatic ties in the late 1970s, and taught economics at Indiana University for eight years before returning to China in 1994.
He joined the PBOC in 1997, and held a series of roles including head of the monetary policy department, assistant to the central bank governor — Zhou Xiaochuan at the time — and head of the foreign exchange regulator, responsible for managing the country’s foreign reserves that peaked at $4 trillion.

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